As some of you know Jacob and I are licensed foster parents. We started this journey over a year ago. Within a few days of each other we both had experiences that caused us to bring up the topic of foster care to each other. We took that as a sign that maybe we should look into it.
We took the classes, filled out over 75 pages of forms, background checks, and writing our life and family history and how we relate as a couple. We went through 2 state checks, FBI checks complete with finger prints, and 4 city background checks. We got licensed.
We had our first placement about a month ago. A 7 month old little boy. We only had him one day as a they found a family member to take him and they always try to keep the children with family first.
We got a call last night from Child Services again. They had a newborn they were planning to remove on Friday, today, would be willing to take him? I of course said yes and then asked the question you have to ask but hate to:
“Why is the child being removed?”
The answer is always heartbreaking. This child was being removed for “non-organic failure to thrive”. That is fancy talk for his parents had neglected him to the point of not even feeding him adequately and he was significantly under weight.
It sucks the breath out of you to hear that.
We got a call this morning that overnight the parents had met enough requirements to not have the child removed at this time. While that seems like good news it is often not. Through our training we learned that more often than not parents will ‘get their act together’ to prevent a removal but then quickly fall back into a pattern of abuse or neglect. Eventually Child Services will remove the child. But an infant doesn’t have the luxury of time. How an infant is treated in its first months of life critically impact his/her life for years to come.
One of the worst things you have to do as a foster parent when you first receive a child is you have to bathe him/her fairly quickly. Why is this awful? Because you are not bathing the child just to clean them. You have to thoroughly bathe the baby and check them for signs of abuse. We did this with our first placement and my hands shook as we started to undress him. You pray silently in your head, ‘please God don’t let me find anything’. You are trained to look for bruises, swelling, cuts, scars, and cigarette burns. Cigarette burns…can you imagine bathing a 3 month old to check them for cigarette burns?
Often these cuts and burns are in private areas as they are easily hidden there. And that makes you think, ‘the parent of this child thought about the fact that they were going to abuse the child and how to best hide it’.
Having to check a child for burns or other abuse brings the meaning of life into sharp focus. There are tons of sayings out there about ‘Life’. ‘Life is precious, life is a gift, life is what you make it, life is a roller coaster ride, life is a gamble…’ to name just a few. Bathing a child to check them for abuse clarified for me what ‘life’ is.
Life is SACRED. Sacred is defined as “entitled to veneration by association with divinity or divine things; holy”. Nothing is more closely associated with the divine, in my mind, than an innocent baby. And a child is ‘entitled to veneration’, they are the miracle of life and we should treat them as the gift they are. If you believe in any higher power you will recognize that higher power very easily when holding a newborn life.
That infant we got the call about last night is SACRED. He is made in ‘the image of God’ and deserves to be treated as such.
Jacob and I originally got into foster care as a way to give back, to try to be a blessing to others in this life. We have recently decided, for other reasons I will write about eventually, that this may be one of the ways we create a family for ourselves.